Hamilton's engine a lap away from failure

For once, the radio messages weren’t so much about his tyres, but rather the pace and strategy of his opponents, and, in the latter stages of the Brazilian Grand Prix, his power unit.

Having inherited the lead following Max Verstappen‘s close encounter with Esteban Ocon, Mercedes realised there was an issue with Hamilton’s engine.

“We have the engine guys here at the track and then we have them back at base,” explained Toto Wolff, “and what I could hear – because I have about ten radio channels open – on one of the ten channels – the meeting channel – was: ‘Lewis Hamilton power unit failure imminent, it’s going to fail within the next lap’.

“I put the volume up, and I was like ‘Excuse me, what?’ And they said: ‘Yeah we’ve got a massive problem on the power unit, it’s going to fail next lap’.

“It didn’t fail next lap and I said: ‘When you guys have a minute, tell me what’s happening”. So I let them work, and they said: ‘Well our exhaust is just about to fail and we’re overshooting all the temperature limits’.

“So I said: ‘What’s the fix?’ And they started to fix it by turning the whole thing down. The temperatures went down to below 1000C, to 980C, but it was still too high, and then he recovered another lap and that was truly horrible.”

“I could feel it,” admitted Hamilton. “I have been driving this engine since the beginning of the year and I know all about it and how it feels and pretty much every note I know like the back of my hand. So when I started to feel it was not operating at its normal harmony… for me I cannot allow any negative thought getting into my mind, so I just stay focused on trying to do less full throttle lifting and going as easy as I can on the engine.

“There was a lot of great work done by the engineers here and back in the UK who were working on what they could turn down and tweak,” he continued. “So I was getting a lot of balls thrown at me while I was driving and trying to do all the other stuff, like switch changes – ‘can you do a default setting?’ – and juggling that and they kept on throwing it at me.

“I was really grateful that the engine finished and for the last ten laps I was really just shouting in the car ‘Come on baby, you can do it… let’s keep it together!’ and willing on the car.

“You could never imagine how crazy that feeling is in the car when your heart rate is at, mine must have been above 190, those last ten laps I was at flat-chat trying to hold on to a car, which was already struggling. I just felt so elated and so grateful.”

Check out our Sunday gallery from Interlagos, here.